File - A banner in Baghdad supporting the legislation reads: “The Jaafari Personal Status Law saves my rights and my dignity.”
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Proposals that would legalize the marriage of 9-year-old Iraqi girls are unlikely to become law, but indicate the growing role of religion in a country some fear is going down the path of neighboring theocracy Iran.Based on Shiite Islamic jurisprudence, the Jaafari Law's advocates say it would bring regulation of personal status – comprising family law, wills and inheritance – into line with Shariah. The existing personal status law – passed in 1959 – is often held up as the most progressive in the Middle East.Iraqi Justice Minister Hasan al-Shimari stuffed a copy of the draft law though the golden grate surrounding a tomb in the holy city of Najaf that contains the remains of Ali, a revered Shiite imam, in a gesture apparently intended to show the bill's significance.Defending the draft law, Shimari denied that it was politically motivated, dismissed secular and Sunni opposition and accused some Shiite parties of sacrificing higher principles by failing to come out strongly in favor.One of Iraq's four main Shi'ite leaders, Ayatollah Basheer al-Najafi, said the law contained "vagaries" and no jurist would approve it, deferring to the country's most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has yet to weigh in.
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